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A Tale of a Law School Bound Teenager

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  • A Tale of a Law School Bound Teenager

    Tales of child prodigies often strike us as a bit, well, strange. We find ourselves looking past the accomplishments (mapped genome of pet bunny at age 7!) for hints of dysfunction, overbearing parents, hidden emotional disorders.

    But try as we might while reading this story in the Orange County Register, we couldn’t find hints of seeds of destruction buried within Kate McLaughlin, a 19-year-old from Irvine, Calif., who’ll be heading off to start law school at Northwestern in the fall. She seems, well, very human.

    Our only question: why, exactly, is McLaughlin going to law school?

    We’ll circle back to that in a minute. But for now, the quick bio on McLaughlin, who strikes us as much more than a boring grind, and certainly not the product of overly ambitious and pushy parents.

    McLaughlin skipped high school altogether, aced the SAT at age 11 (780 verbal, 700 math) enrolled in community college at age 12 and graduated from UC San Diego at 17. She did rather well on the LSAT, too: nailing a 174. According to the Register, only one class in her entire academic career has been challenging, she says – Calculus II, at age 13.

    Aside from all that, she seems fairly likeable, at least a bit aware of the pitfalls of her situation. Consider these quotes:

    On her accomplishments: “I’m incredibly self-conscious about my age. It’s funny. When I tell people how old I am, they always make the same comment: ‘Like Doogie Howser?’ ‘Yes, like Doogie Howser.’
    On her 3.5 GPA at UCSD: “I’m incredibly lazy, amazingly lazy. . . . I’m a very good procrastinator.”
    On her post-college bout with depression: Finishing college isn’t “as glorious as it sounds. People never take you seriously.”
    On seeing a therapist: “I dislike asking for pity and taking pity . . . . But when you are very unhappy and considering some bad things, just being able to talk to people about what’s wrong with you and not blame yourself is a big deal. It’s not a shameful thing.”
    So why do we worry about McLaughlin’s decision to go to law school? Perhaps we shouldn’t. She certainly seems interested in social causes: “I’m an idealist; I want to change the world,” she said. “I bleed blue; I’m a Democrat. I’m an ardent feminist. I’m big on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights – Prop. 8 was a big issue for me.”

    At the same time, she says being a lawyer isn’t at the top of her to-do list. Rather, she wants to be a science fiction writer. “Writing and reading are my passions,” she said. “I get the most riled up discussing fiction.”

    And on law school, she says: “I’m worried I’ll hate law school because it will take up too much of my time on things I’m not interested in.” McLaughlin, who keeps a blog, will take out student loans to pay for Northwestern.

    LB readers, any thoughts? We’re all for law school — and who are we to say what McLaughlin should do? — but, frankly, we sort of share McLaughlin’s worry about not having time to do the things she’s interested in. How about making a run in the science-fiction world and then heading to law school a bit down the road?

    Photo: OC Register
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